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France launches air strikes targeting Islamic State

Western powers are ramping up efforts against the terrorist organisation.

blood Injured Syrian women arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in the town of Azaz on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria (August 2015). Source: PA

FRENCH AUTHORITIES HAVE confirmed the country had carried out its first air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria following nearly three weeks of surveillance flights.

President Francois Hollande’s office said that “France has hit Syria” based on information from reconnaissance flights sent earlier this month. It didn’t provide any further details.

France has been firing airstrikes on IS extremists in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition since last year, but had resisted airstrikes in Syria because it didn’t want to strengthen President Bashar al-Assad . Hollande announced a change in strategy earlier this month because of growing concern about the Syrian refugee crisis.

The president’s office argued today that it was a question of national defense, as France has been attacked and threatened by extremists claiming ties to IS.

Hollande, heading to the UN General Assembly, also stressed the importance of seeking a political solution for Syria.

“More than ever the urgency is putting in place a political transition,” including elements of the opposition and Assad’s regime, Hollande said.

France has remained opposed however to recent diplomatic suggestions of allowing Assad to stay in power for a limited time.

While no specifics were provided about the location or timing of the airstrikes, French military officials have said they would target IS training and logistical sites, according to French media reports.

The French government has insisted that while it is part of the US-led coalition, France is deciding who and what to hit independently.

Hollande announced on 7 September that France would start airstrikes, days after the photo of a dead there-year-old Syrian boy galvanized public concern about Syrian refugees.

In his statement, Hollande said: “Civilian populations must be protected from all forms of violence, that of IS and other terrorist groups but also the murderous bombardments of Bashar al-Assad.”

Read: ‘If somebody destroyed your house and raped half your family, what would you do?’

Read: From despair to euphoria and back: Life for a Syrian refugee family in Germany

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Associated Press

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